Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Top 20 Horror Novels - #14) Rockinghorse by William W. Johnstone (from 1986)

Not only am I ranking my Top 20 Horror Movies for you this October, but I'm doing likewise with the scary books that I hold near and dear.  As with the movies that I'm discussing in that Top 20, I'm not attempting to rank these novels based on their place in pop culture, but rather their place in my heart.  Isn't that sweet?  Seriously, there are some fine books that didn't make the cut here because there just wasn't room, and there are definitely some well-regarded books that didn't make the cut because I don't really like them.  That also means there are some personal favorites of mine on this list that you may not have heard of.  If that's the case, I promise that I'll reward your trust with a gnarly tale if you give one of them a spin.  Finally, I may have shortchanged some of the titans in the genre (hey there, Stephen King) as I didn't want to overload this list with titles by the same author, though Uncle Stevie did manage to score three direct hits on my list.

The list thus far:

#20) Amok by George Fox (from 1980) 
#19) Manstopper by Douglas Borton (from 1988)
#18) Intensity by Dean Koontz (from 1995)

#17) The Terror by Dan Simmons (from 2007) 
#16) The Snake by John Godey (from 1978)
#15) Son of the Endless Night by John Farris (from 1985)

Top 20 Horror Novels - #14) Rockinghorse by William W. Johnstone (from 1986)

Pulpy, crude, and even downright amateurish in spots, this book makes my list because it is undeniably unsettling.  In truth, there are a great many horror novels that I have read in this life that are vastly superior to this rugged gem from 1986 when it comes to the quality of the prose, yet this one really got under my skin in a way that most of those books did not.  Maybe that's because it's so raw, and maybe it's because I didn't really expect such a book to generate such tension and fright.  It doesn't really matter, in the end I wouldn't be putting together a very honest list for you guys if I didn't include this trashy offering from William W. Johnstone, a prolific author who churned out a lot of lowbrow fiction in his lifetime.  The premise is both simple and familiar: a family moves to the old plantation home in the south that the father has recently inherited and it isn't long before strange things start happening and haunting family secrets come to light.  Things really take a turn for the worst when a satanic cult shows up with demented plans for our innocent family.  There's also the rockinghorse of the title, a child's plaything that has somehow become an instrument of evil.  This wicked toy won't stay in the attic and cannot be destroyed.  Johnstone may not show a lot of finesse, but he definitely knows how to keep things popping.  What are those beasts lurking in the woods?  Who can our desperate family trust?  Will anyone survive the gruesome carnage that Johnstone unleashes in this bloodthirsty romp?  This one is solely for those who love a twisted tale with a lot of shock value and aren't easily offended by grisly subject matter.  You know how people say they were so unnerved by a book or a movie that they started checking to make sure that all of their doors and windows are locked?  This is the only such offering that actually inspired me to do that.  I was a teenager at the time, but it happened.  I should probably point out that I have revisited this title as an adult, and while its flaws were more pronounced, it still managed to give me the willies.  In summary, I'm pretty sure that Rockinghorse is easily the worst book to make this Top 20, but it may be the scariest entry as well.

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